Thrace, 13rd - 12rd century B.C.

His form is charged with symbolic elements and with attributes of hero, god and demigod. Musician and poet, founder of sacramental rites and priest, his physiognomy must have been formed in the consciousness from a long time ago, although the first testimonies about him go back to the 6th century BC. He was considered the son of the Thracian king Oiagros and the muse Calliope. Sometimes Melpomene, Cleo or Menippe, daughter of the musician Thamyris, is mentioned as his mother.

Pausanias believed that he was the son of the daughter of Pierus and that he acted in the region of Pieria, while the mythographers considered him to be king of the Vistons or the Odrysians or the Macedonians. Of his musical prowess many testimonies are handed down: the wild beasts lay still and stood still when Orpheus played his lyre or his guitar, fish leaped out of the water and birds gathered around him, even trees and stones were moving to the sound of his song. He was credited with perfecting the lyre, to which he added two more strings, so that the whole symbolized the nine Muses. He took part in the Argonautic expedition, during which with his lyre he gave the rhythm to the oarsmen, rested and calmed them. Moreover he stilled the stormy seas, made the Symplegades stand still, he put to sleep the dragon that kept the golden fleece and, finally, he surpassed the song of ther Sirens themselves.

The most important episode of his life was his descent into Hades. He was in love with his young wife, Eurydice, who died suddenly of a snake bite. Her untimely death left Orpheus inconsolable and gave him the idea to bring her back to life. So he descended to the Underworld, playing his lyre, and such was the power of the music that Cerberus was enchanted and let him pass, Tantalus forgot his thirst, Ixion's wheel ceased to turn, Sisyphus's rock ceased to roll, the Danaids ceased their water-carrying, and the shadows of Hades gathered around him in excitement. Pluto and Persephone conspired that Eurydice should follow Orpheus to the Upper World, on the condition that he not turn to look at her before they faced the sunlight. Just before they pass the entrance to Hades, Orpheus couldn't stand it and turned to see her. Thus Eurydice returned forever to the world of shadows and, despite all his subsequent efforts, he did not succeed in recapturing her.